Few places are more romantic than Italy. Year-round, you’ll see couples wandering the historic streets of Rome, having long lunches in intimate Florentine cafes and pausing for a smooch on the bridges of Venice.
But what about learning how to make your own Bellini, getting inside access to centuries-old palaces and picking up some fighting moves from a gladiator? We thought it sounded pretty cool too. Now get lost — and have fun.
With the Eternal City’s balmy Mediterranean climate and millenniums’ worth of history, it’s no wonder all roads lead here. Get an overview of the metropolis by checking into the 370-room Rome Cavalieri, part of the Waldorf Astoria Collection. Perched atop the highest hill in Rome, the hotel affords an unrivaled panorama of the capital’s triumphal arches, 82 domes and Dr. Seuss-like umbrella pines. Start your trip off right with a strolling tour of the property’s 1,000-plus-piece art collection, or book a couples massage at the Grand Spa, voted the top hotel spa in Europe by Travel + Leisure readers.
The Petronius Suite Bedroom at Rome Cavalieri | Photo courtesy: Rome Cavalieri
Rome’s legendary landmarks — the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Sistine Chapel — are no doubt worth a stop, but this city of 2.8 million has its share of hidden wonders too. Hire a private tour guide from Italy’s Finest (preferred travel advisor of celebs like Madonna and Ben Stiller) and venture where few tourists have set foot — behind the ornate doors of privately owned palaces and into lesser-known museums, such as the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, which houses excavated frescoes, statues and mosaics that date to the Roman Empire.
Want something a little more action-packed? Get your gladiator on and become trained fighters at Rome’s Gladiatorial School. Instructors in full costume are part historian, part coach and part comedian as they teach five moves of attack and defense. Expect a sandy arena, wooden swords and a certificate proving your new combat skills.
After you’ve worked up an appetite, venture back to your hotel for a mind-blowing five-course dinner at three-Michelin-starred La Pergola, helmed by celebrated chef Heinz Beck. It’s a culinary adventure that begins with 29 choices of water and ends with mini desserts served from the tiny drawers of a tabletop treasure chest. Craving something more casual? Head to the cozy courtyard of Babette Ristorante, on Via Margutta, for pistachio-pesto pasta and a to-die-for slice of secret-recipe Babette cake.
Ponte Sant'Angelo and Saint Peter's Basilica | Photo credit: Thinkstock
Late night, walk off those delicious calories on the Ponte Milvio, Rome’s oldest bridge, where young lovers hang padlocks symbolizing their affection, then throw the keys into the Tevere river below. End your sojourn at Trevi Fountain, beautifully lit and blissfully crowd-free after midnight. Join the other couples canoodling on the steps, and toss in a coin to ensure your return to Rome.
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